The Kawai Guitars KS Range
For me, this is where it all started, way back in 1980 (ish).
From what I can dimly remember, Japanese guitars became “good” in the mid-70’s. Better production standards, quality control and raw materials had helped various Japanese companies (Ibanez, Yamaha, et al) produce guitars which threatened the established US companies. They looked like the established guitars (Les Pauls, Strats, etc), but were better! This allowed guitarists to get their hands on very good quality instruments at a significantly lower price than the US equivalents.
Did the US companies respond to this new competition by improving their own standards? The guitar world might be a different place today if they had ... instead they took the “free competition” approach of using the courts to get the “copies” banned.
So the new manufacturers evolved their own designs - guitars such as the Yamaha SG1000/2000/3000 and Ibanez Artist range - appeared during this time. It was around this same time that Kawai launched the KS range.
Perhaps it was the lack of a marketing budget. Perhaps the rather limited range. Perhaps the lack of recognised “name” players who adopted the brand. Perhaps just a little bad luck.
Whatever the reason, Kawai never established the same profile as some of those other brands. The guitars were - in my opinion - just as good as the period benchmark (Yamaha SG1000/2000), but never got the recognition. After the KS range, Kawai changed UK distributor and launched the Aquarius range - but that’s a story for another page.
Here’s a picture from the official Kawai catalogue from the period;
Working from the left, that’s the KS-10 on the left, then the KS-11 in both offered finishes (sunburst & natural), and finally the KS-12, again in both offered finishes (black and natural). More detail on each of those models can be found on the pages linked below.
Each model was available in 2 specifications - a “Jr” and an “XL” model. The catalogue photo above shows the XL models. The most obvious difference between the two specifications is the bridge arrangement - 1-piece Badass design on the XL models and separate bridge and tailpiece units on the Jr models.
The Kawai KS-10
The Kawai KS-11
The Kawai KS-12